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Hard Drives: 40 MB To 750 GB - 3,500 To 10,000 RPM

15 Years Of Hard Drive History: Capacities Outran Performance
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We decided to go back in time by 15 years, starting with one of the early IDE hard drives: just 40 MB. We then moved on to a model from the mid-90's (3.2 GB), jumped to a double-digit gigabyte capacity unit (10 GB), and then upgraded to one with a more modern capacity of 60 GB. Finally, we looked at both the largest and fastest hard drives available today: the Seagate Barracuda 7200.10 at 750 GB, and Western Digital's 10,000 RPM, 150 GB RD1500 Raptor.

Manufacturer Maxtor Quantum IBM Seagate Seagate Western Digital
Product 7000 Series IDE 3524 Fireball ST Deskstar 16GP Barracuda IV Barracuda WD Raptor
Model Number 7040A ST3.2A DTTA-351010 ST360021A 7200.10 WD1500ADFD
Capacity 40 MB 3.2 GB 10.1 GB 60 GB 750 GB 150 GB
Rotation Speed 3524 RPM 5400 RPM 5400 RPM 7200 RPM 7200 RPM 10,000 RPM
Other Capacities 60 - 130 MB 1.6, 2.1, 3.2, 4.3, 6.4 GB 3.2, 4.3, 6.4, 8.4, 10.1, 12.9, 16.8 GB 20, 40, 60, 80 GB 500, 400, 320, 300, 250, 200 GB 74, 36 GB
Platters 3 2 3 2 1 to 4 1 to 4
Heads 5 4 6 3 8 8
Capacity per Platter 26 MB 1.6 GB 5.6 GB 40 GB 200 GB 37.5 GB
Cache 32 - 64 kB 128 kB 512 kB 2 MB 16 MB 16 MB
Interface IDE UltraATA/33 UltraATA/33 UltraATA/100 SATA/300 SATA/150
Manufacturing Date 1991 1996 Jul-98 2003 2006 2006

IDE Oldtimer: Maxtor 7040A, 40 MB (1991)

This is a 40 MB (yes, megabyte) hard drive with three platters rotating at 3,500 RPM, and a simple IDE interface. It is from 1991, and represents an average model from this period. The top model of Maxtor's 7000 Series offered 130 MB of capacity, distributed across eight platters. It had 32 or 64 kB integrated cache memory, depending on the model. You can still find the specifications on the Maxtor website if you dig for them!

The 130 MB capacity of the high-end model represented about the limit of what was available at that time, though capacity quickly increased to 170 MB and 240 MB a short while later. We found it particularly interesting that all of these drives cost several hundred dollars back then; you can easily get 1000x the capacity today at an even lower cost!

This drive is old enough that PCMark05 refuses to run its hard drive test suite on it, but we were able to run tests with c't magazine's h2benchw 3.6 hard drive benchmarking tool. The 7040A's average access time was roughly 27 ms, which looks almost like an eternity compared to today's 8-15 ms access times for 3.5" hard drives. The interface has a bandwidth of 800 kB/s (0.8 MB/s), versus the 80-200 MB/s that your hard drive's interface most likely can handle. The real transfer performance was actually very close to that number as well: h2benchw measured 600-700 kB/s, which is about the transfer rate of a quad-speed CD-ROM drive. Any storage device you can buy today outperforms the 1991 hard drive, of course.

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